Brahms’s Second Symphony followed just a few months after the premiere of his First Symphony and despite audience expectations, the two were as different as night from day.
And Brahms fed that expectation by writing to his publishers when he delivered the new work, describing it – with his tongue firmly in his cheek – as ‘so melancholy that you will not be able to bear it’.
Actually, its surprisingly light and airy, a breeze to listen to and full of sweeping melodies to hum along with.
Brahms wrote it while he was on his summer holiday at Pörtschach am Wörther See in Austria, and his music seems to reflect his relaxed delight and happiness of that time.
According to Brahms’s letters about his holiday in Austria he was in a place where “…the melodies flourish so luxuriantly that you have to be careful not to trip over them.” And the lyrical and almost elated character of the work gave rise to it being nicknamed ‘Pastoral’.
Hans Richter conducted the first performance of the Second Symphony in Vienna in 1877. It was a triumph and the third movement had to be repeated.
Recorded by RNZ Concert, Auckland Town Hall, 20 February 2020
Producer: Tim Dodd; Engineer: Adrian Hollay